1-minute hike: Indian Point Preserve in Ellsworth

Difficulty: Easy. The hike is about 1 mile, out and back. Prepare for a few hills, as well as exposed tree roots and rocks that make footing tricky in some spots.

indianpoint0715-1How to get there: Drive into downtown Ellsworth on Route 1 (Main Street) and turn onto Water Street (which intersects with Route 1 at a four-way intersection and traffic light just east of where Route 1 crosses Union River). Drive about 1 mile and turn right onto Tinker Farm Way, which is marked with a Frenchman Bay Conservancy preserve sign. You’ll enter a housing development. Drive about 0.2 mile to the gravel drive leading to the preserve parking area on the right.

Information: Visible from the Ellsworth Waterfront Park, Indian point is a spit of land on the Union River, at the mouth of Card Brook. Covered with tall white pines, the point is a favorite spot for bald eagles and osprey fishing the river. It’s also a historic site, used by the native people of Maine thousands of years ago.

Today, Indian Point is protected from development and accessible by public walking trails, thanks to the Frenchman Bay Conservancy and a number of other local organizations, businesses and individuals.

indianpoint0715-4The Indian Point Preserve — which includes the tip of Indian Point and its entire eastern side — was acquired by the Frenchman Bay Conservancy in 2003. The purchase was made possible by a grant from Land for Maine’s Future and contributions by many local residents and businesses.

From the water, the preserve stretches back to Bayside Street and Tinker Farm Way, where there’s trailhead parking and a kiosk. From the kiosk, a main trail — constructed by the Maine Conservation Corps — leads to the point, where there’s a picnic area under the shade of tall white pines. The walk along this main trail, to the point and back, is about 0.75 mile, according to the Frenchman Bay Conservancy.

indianpoint0715-10Along the main trail are several colorful displays that help walkers identify various plants found in the area, such as haircap moss, lowbush blueberries and hayscented ferns. There are also wooden benches along the trail where visitors can sit and watch the songbirds flit through the trees. Yellow and white birch, northern red oak and big-toothed aspen are just a few of the many types of trees found in the preserve. Many of the trees and other plants are marked with labels to help visitors learn to identify them.

indianpoint0715-19Volunteers from the Ellsworth Rotary, Boy Scouts and the College of the Atlantic donated materials and time to the construction of this main trail, which is marked with blue blazes and small blue Frenchman Bay Conservancy signs.

In addition to the main trail, there is a small loop trail, which veers off to the right of the main trail and reconnects near the tip of the point. This trail was built by Leif Jacobsen, an Ellsworth High School student, for his Eagle Scout Project. He named the trail the Native American Indian History Trail, and along the way, he erected informational displays about Native indianpoint0715-7American culture and history. If you add this loop trail to your walk, it will be about 1 mile in length.

The picnic area at the tip of the point is a great place to rest and watch wildlife on the Union River. The area is covered with mature white pine trees, which don’t allow sunlight to the forest floor. Therefore, the entire area is clear of undergrowth, making it feel quite spacious, and the forest floor is covered with old, orangey pine needles.

Picnic tables are placed in spaces between tree trunks, as are a few benches and educational displays about area history, archeological sites and the animals frequently seen fishing the river, including otters, great blue herons and bald eagles.

indianpoint0715-33At the edge of the trees, visitors enjoy a scenic view of downtown Ellsworth and watch boats motor (or sail) past. The land itself is fairly high above the water, with steep embankments on all sides. The water itself if only accessible by narrow, steep side trails that visitors have worn into the landscape over time.

Dog are permitted on the property but must be kept under control at all times. The Frenchman Bay Conservancy asks the visitors follow Leave No Trace practices; respect wildlife and leave what you find, travel on durable surfaces, and dispose of waste properly. There are no outhouses available on the preserve.

indianpoint0715-24To learn more about the interpretive trails of Indian Point Preserve, visit the Frenchman Bay Conservancy website at frenchmanbay.org or call the conservancy’s office at 422-2328.

Personal note: After waking up at 3 a.m. last Tuesday, driving to Baxter State Park, hiking Katahdin, interviewing a group of hikers, and descending the mountain, and driving home to walk in the door at 9:30 p.m. — I was spent. In fact, it took me several days to fully recover from that long and tiring — yet wonderful — trip. So when it came to choosing a trail for my weekly “1-minute” adventure, I decided to go with something easy and close to home.

indianpoint0715-13Indian Point Preserve was just the thing.

On Friday, Oreo leapt into the car, his tail wagging, and we headed to the preserve. We walked the trails slowly, pausing to read the educational display and check out tree mushrooms. Oreo whined impatiently and tugged on his leash, but I wasn’t in a rush.

At the picnic area, he headed straight for the water, so I unhooked his lead. All of the energy he’d stored up during the slow walk was unleashed, quite literally, and he bounded into the water. I laughed as I watched him splash around and leap through the tall grass at the water’s edge.

indianpoint0715-31We remained at the picnic site for a while, and I scanned the trees for perching eagles or osprey. A double-crested cormorant — a dark waterbird with a hooked orange and grey beak — flew low over the water and landed by a buoy. A fishing boat motored by. And high in the sky, I spotted a large bird and took a photograph. Later, I’d zoom in on the photo to see that the bird was a juvenile bald eagle, its youth identifiable by its dark plumage. Bald eagles are covered with dark brown feathers until they’re about 5 years old, when they develop white feathers on their heads and tails.

indianpoint0715-25As I read the educational displays at the point, I thought about how the trail would be a great place to bring my young niece. It’s short and has plenty of features, such as wooden bridges and different plants, to keep her engaged. And it would be a great place to teach her a little bit about nature and history, without having to actually brush up on any facts ahead of time.

More photos from the trip: 

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.